Saturday, November 3, 2007

Any Old Port

Yesterday (Saturday) Professor Sun, the Foreign Langauge Department chair, and Delia (whom I'm begun calling by her actual name, Wang Jing, since everyone else does) offered to take me and a fellow foreign teacher, the one from Korea, for a bit of sightseeing. Unfortunately, they're not used to entertaining foreign visitors, since this is the first year of the department's existance, and they seemed at a bit of a loss as to where to take us. (Actually, I seem to know as much about Zhuhai attractions as they do, thanks to my research; but I didn't want to be pushy, and besides, I wanted to see what they had to offer).

Professor Sun came up with the idea of taking us to Zhuhai's seaport — not the one downtown used by the ferries and pleasure boats, but the commerical port where the big seafaring vessels dock. It was a long drive (at least 50 km from the city, out near the hot springs resort I visited last weekend) through an unappealing industrial area blighted with chemical factories and the like; and when we finally got there, we weren't allowed to enter due to security restrictions (which I'd somehow thought might be the case, but once again, I didn't want to play know-it-all).

We drove back along the seacoast and pulled off at a spot where wholesalers drive right up to the ocean in refrigerated trucks . . .

. . . and fishing boats dock there to sell their catch.

I have to say that I found this more interesting than the shipyard would likely have been. It was fun to learn how the fish markets like the ones I've seen in Zhuhai and San Jao obtain their merchandise. And they'll even sell directly to the public, if you bother to make the trek there: Professor Sun bought a fish that he'd prepare for dinner during the weekend (I didn't learn how much money he'd saved by eliminating the middleman, but it couldn't have been any fresher).

We then made the long drive back to Zhuhai, where we met a few other Foreign Language faculty for lunch at what I'd been told is one of the city's best restaurants. (I find myself using the formulation "I've been told" quite a bit, since I've got no way of verifying such things for myself.)

It's common for restaurants — especially in coastal regions — to display live seafood at the entrance, so you can select your dinner.

What's less common is to have snakes on display for the choosing. (Unfortunately, snake wasn't on our bill of fare that day.)

Inside, in the lobby, roast poulty and other items are behind glass display cases.

Upstairs in our private dining room (I've neglected to mention that at nicer restaurants — and even many everyday ones, like the place I was taken by the English Club — large groups almost invariably choose to dine in their own room rather than in the main public area), I enjoyed another unbelievable meal (I mean, without the pictures, would you believe any description I could come up with of how well I've been dining?). In my month here, I've been served many of the dishes — particularly the local specialties — repeatedly; but when it's something as delicious as these shrimp, how could I mind?

It seems like rich dishes often come second — In this case, pig ears, pig liver, and boiled eggs marinated in pig juices.

I've only included this simple-looking bowl so I could mention that it's crocodile soup.

This is the first time I've been served lamb here — it's usually eaten in the west or northeast — and I was glad to see it.

Nondescript greens, for pacing between the heavy meat dishes.

Probably the best whole steamed fish I've had here yet — and that's saying something.

Oysters on the shell, much like I had at the seaside restaurant near campus.

Steamed octopus, mild and very tender.

Mussels, just a bit spicy.

A tofu preparation; a bit bland, but lovely to look at.

Undersea snails; these always seem to be the spiciest dish of any meal at which they're served.

A selection of fried pastries came near the end of the meal. Two were savory — one had meat and some crunchy veggies, the other shrimp — and two sweet, with egg yolk or bean paste.

This pancake had a durian filling; not as noxiously pugent as the raw fruit, when cooked it has a pleasantly delicate taste, sweet and a bit nutty.

The standard fruit finale, this time a bit more elaborate by being carved into a phoenix.

As I've said after previous trips to China, there's often more food left on the table at the end of a banquet here than there is at the beginning of a meal at a Chinese restaurant back home. Surveying the damage are one of the faculty memebers and our driver. (One of the most democratic things about this country, and something I really like, is that the drivers are always invited to share in the meal rather than waiting in the car or van; and they never, never, partake in the drinking.)


Fon said...

Gordon, the pictures of the dishes look great. You should also take more pictures with the people you dine with. I would like to learn more about the people's interests there. What do they do on their spare time? Do they watch sports? How well do they understand American culture? What do they do after a hard day at work? How do they feel about globalization, effects of corporate-capitalism, their insurance coverage, Japanese pop culture, etc.

Having been born in Northeast China and away from China for so long, I'm afraid I don't know much about the people and their way of living presently.

Gordon in China said...

Fon, you\'re absolutely right that I\'ve been neglecting to say much about the people I\'ve encountered here -- although my contact is essentially limited to students and teachers, which doesn\'t exactly represent a cross-section of society. But I\'ve been trying to keep up with posting timely accounts of my day-to-day activities, and that hasn\'t left time for more reflective, general observations. I\'ve been waiting for things to slow down so I could write some more reflective, generalized musings, but that hasn\'t happened. Keep reading, though, and I\'ll see what I can do.

dejanews said...

Hey, I didn't know Gordon could see and reply to these comments. Can he?

Gordon in China said...

Jie sent me the URLs of some proxy servers I can use to circumvent the blocking. It\'s enough of a hassle that I don\'t do it very often, but it allows me to view and post comments if I need to.